Pen Browning died in 1912 without leaving a will, and to satisfy relatives and creditors the Browning heritage was dispersed during a six-day sale. His effects were sold in London by Sotheby's, during an auction held the following year, May 1 - 6, 1913. Soon after the sale Armstrong inquired of Bertram Dobell & Sons, book dealers in London, if
there was a way to obtain the names of purchasers and prices realized at the sale. It was subsequently arranged that E. H. Courville, a Sotheby staff member, would provide this information. Courville secured an unmarked copy of the 161-page illustrated sale catalogue and, with access to the auctioneer's master copy (now on deposit at the British Library, London), duplicated the information into the margins of the unmarked copy. This "Courville Copy" can be seen at the Armstrong Browning Library. If Armstrong had not acquired this record of the buyers, it would have been far more difficult to locate items from the estate. This guide ser! ved as a starting point for Armstrong to pursue, and then either beg or purchase, every Browning item that he could find. Many of the Browning materials are now untraceable, but a surprising amount still surface as they come out of the hands of private collectors.
In 1918, Dr. Armstrong donated his small collection of Browning books (mainly texts and commentaries) to Baylor University. For the rest of his life he dedicated a major part of his energy to raising funds: he cajoled, challenged, and beseiged donors and former students for gifts large and small; he banked the profits he made while conducting educational tours; and he booked performances for and hosted celebrities during their visits to the Baylor campus--in short, he raised money however he could to fund and expand Baylor's Browning collection. Initially, the Browning collection was housed on the open shelves of Baylor's main library, Carroll Library, but in 1922 a fire occurred. Fortunately, all of the Browning items were saved, so, during the renovation of the building, a special Browning Room was created and dedicated in 1924.
Reality and Groundbreaking
As early as 1925, Baylor's Browning collection was clearly the largest single concentration in the world; equally clear was the need for a separate building for the vast and growing collection. In 1943, Baylor president Pat N. Neff offered $100,000 toward the construction of the library and challenged Armstrong to raise the remaining funds. Despite being slowed by a post-war economy, groundbreaking for the three-story Armstrong Browning Library was held on May 7, 1948, on the block of 8th Street and Speight Avenue, the southeast corner of the Baylor University campus. It was to serve a dual purpose: house the Browning collection in the top two floors and provide space for English Department classrooms and offices on the ground level.
Cornerstone and Dedication Ceremonies
After twenty-one months of construction, a grand ceremony on February 25, 1950, gave donors and guests an opportunity to place over 60 items in the cornerstone of the building--items ranging from personal photographs and publications to tributes regarding Robert Browning. Finally, after another twenty-two months of painstaking work by builders and craftsmen, dedication ceremonies for the magnificent 1.75 million-dollar structure were held December 1 - 3, 1951, during a flourish of activities.
The Browning collection has continued to grow, both in volume and importance, under the succeeding directorships of Mary Maxwell Armstrong (1954 - 1959), Dr. Jack W. Herring (1959 - 1984), Dr. Roger L. Brooks (1987 - 1994), Dr. Mairi C. Rennie (1996 - 2002), and Dr. Stephen Prickett (2003 - 2008).
In 1995 a major renovation of the ground floor changed the existing classrooms and offices, formerly used by the English Department, into areas that were essential to compensate for the growth of the collection and expanded service to the general public. The floor was transformed into a ground-level entryway, formal reception area, gift shop, lecture hall, seminar room, and a desperately needed humidity and temperature controlled book stack area.
In 2001 several refurbishment activities were undertaken to prepare for the celebration of the building's Golden Jubilee. Thanks to the Baylor/Waco Foundation and Baylor University, the building is once again enjoying its original splendor.
ANDREW JOSEPH AND MARY MAXWELL ARMSTRONG
Dr. A. J. Armstrong (Dr. A): March 29, 1873; Louisville, Kentucky
Mary Maxwell Armstrong (Mrs. A): September 21, 1883; Buena Vista,
Ellis County, Texas
Birth Dates and Places:
Death Dates and Places:
Dr. A: March 31, 1954 (81 years old); Waco, Texas; buried in
Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, Texas
Mrs. A: September 1, 1971 (88 years old); West Chester,
Pennsylvania; buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, Texas
Dr. A's Education, Career, and Travels:
Education: B.A. (1902), M.A. (in cursu award, 1904), Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana
five summer sessions at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (1903 - 1907)
Ph.D. (1908), University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Career before coming to Baylor University: Rusk Academy (later East Texas Baptist Institute), Rusk, Texas (September - December 1902); Luna Training School, Franklin, Kentucky (January - June 1903); Broadus College, Clarksburg, Virginia (September 1903 - June 1904); Illinois Wesleyan College, Bloomington, Illinois (September 1904 - June 1907); Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky (September 1909 - May 1912)
Career at Baylor University: interim position in English Department, 1908 - 1909; Chairman, English Department, 1912 - 1952; Director of the Armstrong Browning Library from its completion in 1951
until his death in 1954
Travels: meets Pen Browning during his first solo trip to Europe, 1909; conducts first tour to Europe for Temple Tours, 1911; starts Armstrong Educational Tours to Europe and Near East, 1912 (30 plus trips conducted during twenty years); organizes first Browning Pilgrimage in 1926 and the second in 1930
Mrs. A's Education and Career:
Career: maintained offices in Paris and Waco for the management of Armstrong Educational Tours (1912 - 1932); advisor to Dr. A (1911 - 1954); Director of the Armstrong Browning Library from 1954 to 1959; consultant and administrator of the Guardian Angel organization (1959 - 1966)
Mrs. A's Contributions:
Assisted Dr. A in fund-raising, expanding the Browning Collection, and planning the Armstrong Browning Library; she is credited with a strong influence on the ultimate beauty and elegance of the Library, especially the formation of the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon
THE ARMSTRONG BROWNING LIBRARY BUILDING
Groundbreaking: May 7, 1948
Cornerstone Ceremony: February 25, 1950
Dedication: December 1 - 3, 1951
First-floor Renovation: 1995
Approximately 1.75 million dollars in 1951, with a 1.5 million
dollar renovation in 1995; if the same quality materials and craftsmen
could be found today, the building would cost approximately 50 million
dollars; that figure does not include the collections and other contents
SUCCEEDING DIRECTORS OF THE LIBRARY
Mary Maxwell Armstrong, 1954 - 1959; following the death of her husband
Dr. Jack W. Herring, 1959 - 1984; specialist in Robert Browning and John
Milton, former student of Dr. A
Dr. Roger L. Brooks, 1987 - 1994; specialist in Matthew Arnold and Victorian literature, former student of Dr. A
Dr. Mairi Rennie, 1996 - 2002; British subject, specialist in Victorian literature
Dr. Stephen Prickett, 2003 - 2008; British subject, specialist in Victorian literature in relation to Victorian theology
Rita S. Patteson, 2009 - ; native Texan, specialist in librarianship and in the Armstrong Browning Library
Dr. A. J. Armstrong, founder of the Armstrong Browning Library, became interested in Robert Browning at an early age and began to collect books and articles associated with Browning from about 1905. On his first visit to Italy in 1909 he met Browning's sixty-year-old son Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning, known as Pen, who was living in Asolo, Italy, as a sculptor and artist. Armstrong was entertained there as Pen's guest for several memorable days; the visit produced in Armstrong a firm intent to pursue and acquire everything by or concerning the poet.